The Earth's core has stopped spinning. Diagnosis: we're all screwed, dead within a year. To save humanity, six scientists are enlisted for a risky mission - to burrow deep beneath the planet's surface in an experimental craft and jump-start the Earth's heartbeat with some rather large nuclear missiles.
The end of the world is a serious business. Luckily, in The Core it's a damned entertaining one, too.
Wasting no time in establishing its premise - in an ominous opening sequence, 32 pacemaker-wearers drop dead simultaneously - the film rockets forward like a shark. In no time at all, our plucky protagonists are introduced and the plot to save the planet gets under way. A plot, incidentally, that would give Sigmund Freud nightmares, as our heroes violently penetrate mother earth in a giant, penis-shaped vessel. Saucy. If it all sounds a little reminiscent of Armageddon, that's because it's essentially that movie in reverse, but thankfully with none of the protracted and patented Michael Bay flag-waving.
It's a better sci-fi movie, too, showing us 'alien' worlds (a cave full of giant crystals, a sea of molten lava) as our heroes journey to the centre of the Earth.
You certainly don't need to bone up on the Hollywood star system to figure out who's likely to be magma fodder, but what does surprise is the intensity generated by this impressive cast, led by Eckhart (in his first real Hollywood hunkathon role). When one character makes a sacrifice reminiscent of Bruce Willis in Armageddon, it has an emotional impact and a bleak visual beauty that dwarfs Bay's fake posturing.
Amiel only occasionally ventures up to the surface where, in true modern disaster movie-style, entire cities are reduced to rubble by freak weather. The problem is, audiences have become increasingly inured to scenes of mass destruction - the CG devastation is technically impressive, but nothing new.
Recognising this, Amiel keeps these scenes relatively short, but he can't combat the film's episodic nature (the crew encounter a problem; solve it; encounter another problem; solve it). It doesn't know how or when to end, and at times doesn't just flirt with hokey B-movie cliché, but invites it back to its pad for an all-nighter. That aside, The Core is well worth checking out - before the whole damn planet goes to hell.
Its the end of the world as we know it - and youll feel fine.